Kaine, Steele make cases to NAACP

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine called out Republicans Saturday for opposing "virtually everything" that President Barack Obama does.

Kaine, in a speech before the NAACP in Virginia, defended Obama's record, saying that's he's been "tremendously successful" after inheriting two wars and a recession from the Bush administration.

ADVERTISEMENT
"He’s tackled more and accomplished more in the past seven months than most presidents do in seven years," said Gov. Kaine (Va.), according to prepared remarks. He touted the $787 billion stimulus, Obama's plan to help struggling homeowners and credit card reform as measures that are helping revive the economy.

But Kaine saved his choicest words for Republicans, whom he said were "standing in the way" and "hoping Obama fails." He noted that Republicans in Congress have opposed the stimulus, Obama's budget and his plan to overhaul the healthcare system.

"After six months as the Democratic national party chair, I know what Republicans are against -- virtually everything, especially anything that this president is doing," Kaine said.

"They say he doesn’t deserve honorary degrees from colleges," he added. "They whip up opposition when he wants to give a speech to our nation’s schoolchildren to encourage them to study hard and stay in school. OK, we get it already. They oppose the president. But, I have yet to see what the Republican Party is for."

Both Kaine and Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele spoke before the NAACP at a dinner in Chesterfield honoring the civil rights group's 100th year.

Steele took a less confrontational tone than Kaine, staying away from criticizing Democrats. He said that Republicans were willing to help the African-American community with an approach that focuses less on government.

"True freedom is ill-served by diminishing educational choices, choking off the entrepreneurial spirit, and empowering government more than the people," Steele said, according to prepared remarks.

Steele, the first black GOP chairman, acknowledged the election of the first black president, but Steele cautioned against merely going along with Obama, particularly on healthcare. He said that the healthcare debate had become one in which "the diversity of opinion and political philosophy which genuinely exists within our community could become lost in the rush to empower government and its institutions instead of African-American neighborhoods, small businesses and senior citizens."

Steele also acknowledged the recent gulf between Republicans and the NAACP, whose leaders had called for President George W. Bush's ouster in 2004 and whose invites were routinely declined by Bush until the sixth year of his presidency.

Steele said that the GOP and the NAACP "have very often missed real opportunities to communicate and engage each other."

For the two groups, "'outreach' is outdated because it has become nothing more than a speech here and a pat on the back there," Steele said.

"It is time we work together to advance freedom in the African-American community," he added.